Wednesday 13th October 1999
A daddy at home, mummy has some work day today. I was up early regardless. Scanning the papers for a job in old or new media. Zozo joins me for breakfast. Usually I’m off about now and have to put her in front of Sesame Street. Not today.
Darlingest has a routine of sorts. We try to adhere to it. Clothes are laid out the night before in the bathroom. We use a race as a ploy to get Zozo out of her trainer pants and into her clothes for the day. Somehow, by 8.30 I have them both strapped into the car and I head for Blockley.
11 miles, cross country to take the little person to nursery school. A huge wagon pulls out of a farm in Barton on the Heath. It could contain a 3-bed cottage. We sit behind this vast steel behemoth all the way to Bourton on the Hill. Blockley is idyllic. Cotswold villages look their best in early morning or evening autumn sun. The orange glow of the sun is absorbed by the mellow yellow of the stone, which is made more pronounced by the dappled hues of red, orange, tan and beige in the trees and surrounding woods.
Darlingest loves Blockley School and I respect and admire their approach. There’s an intelligent and considered and flexible approach. 200 yds from our home in Long Compton there is a state primary school. A pre-school facility for 13 children opened this autumn. I understand 6 or 7 children attend. The “school” is a portacabin. We don’t know the new teachers. The headmaster, an unimpressive, dim Brummager doing his time to retirement is the reason to keep away from the place. He doesn’t live in the village either. The real reason for keeping Zozo out though is the other children. Having been to the Blockley Sports Day Zozo and Darlingest went to a Long Compton Primary School Open day where 3 and 4 year olds kicked, spat and said “fucking.”
Darlingest had told me to leave Zozo promptly. Instead I gave her a lingering hug and kiss. Mistake. She didn’t want to stay. Mrs New distracted her. I made a rapid exit down the stairs looking back to reassure myself that she was fine. She is.
Decide to drive to Stowe via Longborough to judge if it would be realistic to live in Blockley or near to Blockley. TBT pulls himself free of the straps in the car seat so I have to stop. The road is easy along the top of the escarpment, but at 6.5 miles we gain very little it’s 11 miles from Long Compton to Stowe as it is.
Stowe is wonderful at this time of year too. The tourists have gone. There is ample parking, indeed there are so few cars at this time in the morning the square begins to resemble those black and white pictures that decorate the walls of local pubs and cafes. I stumble in and around the estate agents. Not a lot on offer, though I pick up details of a chapel in Bourton on the Water, of similar proportions to our current chapel conversion.
Now what? A few hours still to kill. Dare I take TBT for a haircut? He’s 16 months old and has had one haircut. It’s over his ears and over his eyes. We head for Chipping Norton.
Though there was the usual conservative outcry over the work that has now been completed in the square I am wholly supportive of the council’s achievement. The High Street has lost few parking places, but no longer suffers from vehicles drifting in along the top. Instead everything is funnelled in from either end. It puts cars in their place whilst improving the environment for pedestrians. Another Cotswold town I’ve got used to over the last 3 years. I’d hate to give up the convenience of it all, always being able to park near to the shops, never having to scramble around for parking meter change either.
A couple of octogenarians are having trims. TBT’s hair is as wispy as theirs is. The wait gives TBT a chance to explore and play. He clambers on a chair, and winds it around. He takes out tins of hair wax and stacks them. He pulls out hair dryers. I try to read him stories and he loves Max the burgundy Labrador.
It proves a task and a half. TBT won’t sit on the raised seat so he goes sideways on my knees. He won’t’ tolerate a bib or a towel over his shoulders. Distractions are momentary. A Buzz Light-year is soon flung to the floor. A sticky lollie works for moments only, before it gets stuck with hair and the appeal is lost. Max is called in and obediently skulks over to be petted. TBT is having nothing of it. To clip around his ears and his fringe I clasp him still. He hates it of course and I have a distant recollection of dentist’s chairs. TBT’s tears are temporary.
Susan, the hairdresser has to work fast. She gives TBT’s little head the same thorough attention. His sun-tinted locks are clipped away. He’s left with the short back and sides of a little boy. Pointing him towards the mirror we expect some kind of reaction, but he appears to see nothing unusual. Just him and Daddy. Darlingest loves it. Her little boy. He plugs in for some comfort and cuddles. Ten minutes later I have him back, rosy cheeked, a dynamo, mischievous, inquisitive, destructive. The only answer to this is to drop everything, to do nothing else, nor to think of anything else. I doubt his attention spans longer than ten minutes (if that). Whilst he can be distracted he has interests and drives which are sometimes difficult to interpret. He sees or recognises something and wants it: a brush, a watering can, a pen, and a piece of bread or fruit.